Legends of Runeterra is a brand new digital card game from Riot Games. It was just announced as part of Riot’s ten year anniversary stream (along with a number of other hugely exciting projects), and will give players a whole new look at the world of League of Legends, bringing many of its iconic champions to life in a whole new way. It’s hugely exciting, in other words, and there’s an awful lot to dig into. (You can even pre-register now!)
My Legends of Runeterra overview and hands-on impressions are here, but that only covers some of what I learnt about the game. Here are 40 things you need to know about Legends of Runeterra:
There are 318 cards in the initial set and they’re divided into six regions
Those regions are Demacia, Freljord, Ionia, Noxus, Piltover & Zaun and Shadow Isles. You can see where they are relative to one another in this interactive map of Runeterra.
There are 24 League of Legends champions in the initial set of cards
They are, by region:
– Demacia: Lucian, Fiora, Lux and Garen
– Freljord: Braum, Ashe, Anivia and Tryndamere
– Ionia: Zed, Shen, Yasuo and Karma
– Noxus: Draven, Katarina, Vladimir and Darius
– Piltover & Zaun: Teemo, Ezreal, Jinx and Heimerdinger
– Shadow Isles: Elise, Kalista, Thresh and Hecarim
Champions by Region – Legends of Runeterra
Legends of Runeterra won’t have card packs
Getting random cards can be fun, but sinking a heap of money into card packs and not getting anything you want to use can be pretty demoralising. Legends of Runeterra is keeping the former while eliminating the latter. Any cards that players get randomly will be cards they unlock through playing the game. Instead of buying packs with real-world money, players will instead buy coins (one of two in-game currencies), which can then be spent on wildcards, which can be swapped for whatever card they want of the corresponding rarity. Wildcards will come in four tiers – common, rare, epic and champion, from cheapest to most expensive.
You can buy the cards you want… but there’s a limit
The in-game store will only stock so many wildcards each week, so there’s an actual limit to how many cards you can buy at a time. Why? The team doesn’t want people to be able to instantly buy their way into a complete collection. Part of the fun of card games is finding a way with the collection you do have, as opposed to just blindly copying whatever the top meta deck is. The idea is that the player base as a whole will be restricted, so everyone will be steadily their collection.
A pretty modest range.
Cards can also be purchased with Shards
In addition to wildcards (which are earned through in-game rewards or purchased with coins), players can also buy cards using Legends of Runeterra’s other currency – Shards. Shards are earned through region roads and the weekly vault (more on those in a sec), plus, they’re also given to you in place of a fourth copy of a card in random rewards, as the deck limit is three. In that instance, you’ll get around 17% of the Shard purchase value for commons, with the percentage rising with card rarity, capping off at around 25% for champions.
There’ll be plenty of other ways to expand your collection
Legends of Runeterra will have daily quests, a weekly vault and the ability to choose a region (akin to colours in Magic or classes in Hearthstone) to focus on. Playing the game and completing daily quests will reward you with XP, which funnels into the other two systems.
Every week will have a “vault day”
The weekly vault is exactly what it sounds like – a vault that levels up the more you play, and then unlocks for every player on the same day. How does it level up? The chests inside upgrade, increasing the number of cards you’ll receive in each. Plus, both the cards and chests have a chance to upgrade further. If you hit level ten you’ll also be guaranteed a champion.
For committed players it will represent a decent card injection every week (“basically just cards raining down on you,” Design Director Andrew Yip told me), and the team wants “vault day” to be something the entire community looks forward to each week.
You can also pick the region you want to focus on
There’s nothing worse in a CCG than opening packs – or being awarded cards – only for none of them to be relevant to the class or archetype you want to play. Legends of Runeterra addresses this by allowing players to pick a region to funnel your XP into. If you think Shadow Isles has the play style or champion for you, then select it on the Rewards screen, and you’ll unlock a steady stream of rewards devoted to that class. These can be everything from individual cards and wildcards of defined rarities through to chests and capsules with multiple rewards. And if you decide you want to focus on another region, just swap.
Choose your region for rewards!
Each region has a very distinct identity
Noxus cards, for instance, are all about aggression and closing out games. Their units typically have more attack than health, and may be overstatted for their cost, but with downsides like an inability to block. Many of them are focused on dealing damage to the opposing Nexus (i.e. opponent) or buffing their allies. Each region is also really different in terms of the world they live in, and what kind of characters they are. Noxus cards, for instance, feature a lot of impossibly brawny or heavily armoured men fighting it out in arenas reminiscent of Ancient Rome. Also, Wolverine.
Not someone you’d want to meet in the arena.
Decks can be built using cards from two regions
That means there are 21 possible combinations of regions. Using the example of Noxus again, you can look to find a region that shores up its weaknesses, or perhaps one that doubles down on its strengths. Many regions already have some obvious in-built synergies, so you may notice when browsing Noxus’ cards, for instance, that there are quite a few spiders in the mix, which would naturally get you thinking about how Noxus may work with Shadow Isles, given one of the themes of that region (and Elise specifically) is utilising spiders.
There are no neutral cards
Every single card in Legends of Runeterra is allied with a specific region, so unlike many other CCGs there are no neutral cards. The team said that they toyed with them for a while, but ultimately it meant you’d see the same cards too often.
There are no dual region cards but there is limited mono support
The Legends of Runeterra team are really focused on the idea that any one card can go in a deck with any other one card, so there are no dual region cards in the initial set. There is, however, support for single region archetypes in the form of cards with “Allegiance”, which activates if the top card of the player’s deck is of the same region as the card with Allegiance. There’s one unit with Allegiance per region.
Any champion can team up with any other champion
The upshot of the two region system is that you can come up with some wild combinations, not only of regions – and thus gameplay mechanics – but of champions too. If there are two champions that you’d really love to see fighting side by side, you can try and make it work.
Each champion can level up during a game
This is done by completing a mini quest specific to that champion. A basic example would be Garen, who simply has to attack twice to level up. His level two form is slightly bigger, but can also attack every round, regardless of whether the player is attacking or defending (more on that shortly).
Each champion has a unique perk when levelled up – some being more complicated than others, but they all typically play into their strategy. Elise, for instance, is all about summoning spiders, so it makes sense when she becomes Spider Queen Elise for those units to get powerful new keywords.
What do the level up animations look like? Check ’em out:
Once a champion levels up, all your other copies also level up
In the example above, if you have three copies of Elise in your deck, and you level up the first copy you draw, the other two copies will also be levelled up versions if you draw into them.
You can have three copies of a champion in your deck
This is the same limit for every other card, but with a twist – you can only have six champion cards in your deck in total. So that means you can have two champions with three copies each, or you could decide to have three champions with two of each, and so on. Decks are 40 cards in total.
You can only have one copy of a champion in play
If you have two copies of, say, Shen in hand, and you play one, while he’s on the board, the other copy turns into “Shen’s Stand United” – a modified version of an Ionian spell that can help you level him up. If you play it, it will then shuffle a Shen back into your deck. If you don’t play it and the Shen in play dies, the spell will turn back into the champion card. Each champion is associated with a specific spell from their region.
Shen in Legends of Runeterra
Each round, one person attacks and the other defends
If you’re attacking, you’re able to play units and choose to attack with them on the same turn, so there’s no summoning sickness in Legends of Runeterra. If you’re defending, you’re also able to play units, then choose how to block when your opponent initiates their attack. (As a side note, there are certain champions, like Garen and Katarina that can still attack on rounds when a player is defending, but they both need to be levelled up to do so.)
This let’s play will give you an overview of the core mechanics:
Each round is designed to be a back and forth
After every action that the attacker takes, the defender has a chance to respond. If an attacker plays a unit, the defender then has an action of their own, in which they can also play a unit if they choose, or they can cast a spell, or they can simply choose to pass.
The fact that the potential to take action can be passed back and forth many times in a single round opens up a huge amount of strategy, from simple things, like buffing a unit out of range of an attack or outright recalling it to hand, through to more subtle strategies like holding back mana until the end of a round to surprise your opponent.
It’s also really compelling seeing how one spell can be used to counter another and so on, building up a big chain that then gets resolved when both players have exhausted their options. In Legends of Runeterra you’re constantly being called on to make decisions both small and large, and it makes for a deep gameplay experience once you start getting your head around it.
A lot of spells set to go.
Attacks are resolved sequentially from left to right
In other words, when you set your minions to attack the enemy Nexus, they do so, one after the other, from left to right. This means that you can tee up buffs or level ups that happen mid-way through combat. A simple example would be Darius, whose level up condition is “The enemy Nexus has 10 or less health.” If you place him to the right of units that are going to take the enemy Nexus below 10, instead of having a six attack Darius when it’s his turn to hit, you’ll have a ten attack Darius. Incidentally, you can have six units in play at the most. (And ten cards in hand.)
Up to three points of mana can be banked as “spell mana”
If you have nothing to do on round three, it may not be a complete disaster, as passing the turn will see those three points of unspent mana automatically pushed across to be stored as spell mana. As the name suggests, this mana can only be spent on spells, so it’s unlikely to be used to gain you tempo, but it can certainly be a valuable resource with which to respond to what your opponent is doing.
Only three mana total can be banked as spell mana, but it can also be used in conjunction with your “main” mana to play spells that cost more than your current mana total. The Freljord spell “Warmother’s Call”, for instance, can ONLY be played by utilising spell mana.
Every spell has one of three spell-centric keywords
Spells in Legends of Runeterra fall into three categories – Slow, Fast and Burst. Slow spells are cast like a playing a unit – they take up an action, and your opponent gets a chance to respond before it plays out. Fast spells can be cast in the same way, but can also be used to respond to Fast or Slow spells. Casting a Fast spell also gives your opponent the chance to respond. Burst spells, on the other hand, resolve instantly, with no opportunity for a response, and don’t take up your action, allowing you to also do something else.
Spell Keywords in Legends of Runeterra
There are many, many other keywords to learn
Here are most of the ones I came across:
Allegiance – When you summon this, it gets its allegiance bonus if the top card of your deck matches its region.
Barrier – Negates the next damage the unit would take. Lasts one round.
Can’t Block – This unit can’t be used to block enemy unit attacks.
Challenger – Can choose which enemy unit blocks.
Double Attack – When attacking, strikes both before AND at the same time as its blocker.
Drain – Deals damage and gains equal Nexus health.
Enlightened – Activates when you have 10 max mana.
Elusive – Can only be blocked by an Elusive unit.
Ephemeral – This unit dies when it strikes or when the round ends.
Fearsome – Can only be blocked by enemies with three or more attack.
Fleeting – Fleeting cards discard from hand when the round ends.
Frostbite – Set a unit’s Power to 0 this round. It can be changed after.
Last Breath – Triggers when the unit dies.
Lifesteal – Damage this unit deals heals its Nexus that amount.
Nexus Strike – This effect triggers when the unit strikes the enemy Nexus.
Obliterate – Completely removed from the game. Doesn’t cause Last Breath and can’t be revived.
Overwhelm – Inflicts damage beyond what would kill the target to the enemy Nexus.
Quick Attack – Strikes before its blocker, but only on attack, not when blocking.
Recall – Return a unit to hand and remove all effects applied to it.
Regeneration – Heals fully at the start of each round.
Slow – Slow spells can be cast outside of combat and other casting. The enemy can respond.
Strike – When a unit deals combat damage to another unit or the enemy Nexus.
Support – Attacking with a support unit will buff the unit to its right.
Stun – Prevents the unit from attacking or blocking for the round. Removes the unit from combat.
Tough – The unit takes one less damage from attacks.
A Riot staffer talks us through a game, play by play:
If in doubt, use Oracle’s Eye
If you’re not sure how a combat scenario is going to play out, you can hover over the “Oracle’s Eye” on the left side of the screen to see which units will be killed and what everything’s health is going to be after it all resolves.
Your guiding light.
The art for every card can be viewed full-screen
Right clicking on any card will zoom in on it, and from there you can click on the eye icon to see the full art, which – aside from some of the weapon and spell art – is a gorgeous widescreen illustration. The art is simply stunning and does a great job fleshing out the world. It’s all going to be present and correct on mobile too.
There is no legacy art being used
You’d think that when you’re dealing with iconic League of Legends champions, all of whom already have a tonne of great art, that you might, oh I don’t know, use some of it in your CCG? Nope, every single piece of art in Legends of Runeterra is new. The vast majority of the pieces were done by an art studio based in Berlin called Sixmorevodka, and the result is incredible. There’s a consistency and attention to detail here that’s staggering given how much bespoke art has been created, and shows a real commitment to the high bar Riot has obviously set for itself.
Full Screen Art From Legends of Runeterra
When a champion levels up, so too does the art
The level up animations in Legends of Runeterra are pretty slick, and the champion that emerges at the end of each has transformed. Yes, each champion has a completely different piece of art for their level 2 form. Fun fact: for much of its development, Legends of Runeterra only had one piece of art for each champion, and it wasn’t until relatively late in the process that the team decided it really was the missing piece of the puzzle… and commissioned more.
The full art is used for some great reveals
Take Mageseeker Investigator, for instance. It’s not until we see the full art that we realise that Lux herself is in hiding from this steely-eyed witch hunter in Demacia. I also love cards like Phantom Prankster, which looks kind of cute until you see the full art.
Full Art Reveals in Legends of Runeterra
Cards often reference one another
Kato the Arm and Shiraza the Blade, for instance, are both featured in their respective cards, with amusing perspectives from each in the flavour text.
Kato and Shiraza – Legends of Runeterra
Champions pop up in the art for other cards
Check out Warden’s Pray, where it’s not until you click through to the full art that you see Thresh’s role. Hapless Aristocrat also features everyone’s favourite Spider Queen.
Champion Cameos – Legends of Runeterra
The voice lines for unit interactions are next level
The team recorded 3800 dialogue lines for Legends of Runeterra, and it really shows. If characters have a relationship – for good or for ill – you can bet there’ll be banter highlighting it. This dedication to exploring how characters might interact with one another makes even the act of playing units far more lively than in other games in the genre.
Personalisation options are coming
The plan is for players to be able to use different play mats, which will change their half of the board, and probably make for some pretty amusing pairings (pool party mat please!), as well as for players to be able to choose the pet that they want on-screen, and to be able to interact with it.
Out of the gate, each player starts with the Summoner’s Rift board and the Poro Guardian. If you pre-register you’ll also receive an exclusive Monstruck Poro Guardian once LoR full launches in 2020.
Playing against friends is coming
The friends list and challenge friend functionality are set to be included in the closed beta in early 2020. The team also told me that deck codes will be sharable both in and out of the game, and that community sites and projects will also be supported via things like API access.
Legends of Runeterra will also be on mobile
When the game launches in 2020, it will be on both PC and mobile, and will feature cross-play. It’s looking like mobile will debut at launch, whereas the current “Preview Patch” and future closed betas prior to launch will be on PC.
It was developed for mobile first
During our making-of interviews, Executive Producer Jeff Jews told us that it made sense for the team to develop for the most restrictive platform first – and get it right – and then expand to PC. Some features that were designed for mobile, such as the ability to pick up a group of units in one motion, proved so user friendly that they then transitioned to PC.
Check out our making-of video, in which we speak to key devs:
Legends of Runeterra has been in development for several years
Riot Games has been quietly working on this game for a looong time, and it really shows – it feels polished, distinct and is full of incredible art, animations and sound design. The current team size is over a hundred.
A limited game mode is coming soon
We don’t know much about it yet, other than the fact that it will be called Expeditions. A ranked ladder is also in development.
Each future set for the foreseeable future will add a new region to the game
This means that the potential region combinations expand significantly with each set. A seventh region, for instance, would mean there will be 28 possible combinations. When a new set comes out, every region will get new cards, while the new region will be brought up to parity with all the others. This means that sets will grow larger in size until the team reaches the region count that it considers final. The team is planning on releasing several new sets a year.
Quite a few additional places for the game to explore…
You can pre-register now!
Head over to the Legends of Runeterra website and you can pre-register for a chance at early access. What early access? Well, the announcement kicked off a five day “Preview Patch” to give players who’ve pre-registered a taste of the basic gameplay, card acquisition and deck-building. It runs until October 20 (7pm PT). There’ll be another Preview Patch in November, and then a closed beta in early 2020. The game will fully launch in 2020.
Legends of Runeterra will have balance patches every month
After Legends of Runeterra launches, the team will announce balance changes – or not – every month. The plan is to be highly responsive and to make regular changes to help keep the game fresh.
Cam Shea is Editor in Chief for IGN’s Australian content team and loves him some CCGs. Read his hands-on impressions of Legends of Runeterra here. He’s on Twitter.